Never Knowing Where We Fly
Birds learn how to fly, never knowing
where flight will take them.
There is a deep and humbling lesson in the way of birds. Their wings grow and stretch and span patches of air. First tentatively and then with confidence, they lift, they pump, they glide, they land. It seems, for birds, it is the act of flying that is the goal. True, they migrate and seek out food, but when flying, there is the sense that being aloft is their true destination.
Unlike birds, we confuse our time on Earth, again and again, with obsessions of where we are going—often to the point that we frustrate and stall our human ability to fly. We frequently tame and hush our need to love, to learn, to know the truth of spirit, until we can be assured that our efforts will take us somewhere. All these conditions and hesitations and yes-buts and what ifs turn the human journey upside down, never letting the heart, wing that it is, truly unfold.
Yet, without consideration or reservation, it is simply the presence of light that stirs birds to sing and lift. They do not understand concepts such as holding back or only investing if the return seems certain. In this, we are the only creatures that seek out guarantees, and in doing so, we snuff the spark that is discovery.
Just how often do we cripple ourselves by not letting love with all its risks teach us how to fly? How many times do our hearts stall because we won’t let the wingspan of our passion open us fully into our gifts? How frequently do we search for a song of guidance that can only come from inside us?
I know that over the years, through fear and expectation, my mind has gathered and hoarded places I needed to go, things I needed to have, selves I needed to be. But here I am, without most of them—the goals and wants all used up in learning how to love.
So, try as I do to imagine and construct where I am headed, try as I will to plan and know what this life of feeling means, it is the pulse of what I feel itself that lifts me into spirit. In truth, wings don’t grow any differently to fit south or east or west, and our lives, no matter how we train ourselves, are more fundamental than any direction of worldlyambition. We, like the birds, are meant to fly and sing—that’s all—and all our plans and schemes are twigs of nest that, once outgrown, we leave.
From Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press, 2011. Used by permission of the author.